Zocdoc Answers

Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors

"How do noninfectious cystitis and IC differ?"

ZocdocAnswersHow do noninfectious cystitis and IC differ?


What is the difference between noninfectious and infectious cystitis? I only came across the terms because I had a urinary tract infection this summer ? but is a UTI infectious or noninfectious? Why is it useful to categorize UTIs this way? Just curious.


Cystitis refers to inflammation of the bladder. When most physicians use this term, they are referring to an infection of this organ. By definition, a UTI is a urinary tract infection, a subtype of which is infectious cystitis. We as physicians are somewhat simple-minded. We commonly differentiate sharply between infectious causes of symptoms and non-infectious causes. Since we can treat infectious conditions with antibiotics, this separation helps us immediately move from diagnosis ("you have an infection of your bladder...") to treatment (" I'm going to give you some antibiotics.") If you don't have an infection, you need different treatment, and antibiotics may do more harm than good. A urinary tract infection occurs when bacteria infect some part of the urinary tract, be it the urethra, bladder, or kidney. Bladder infections are termed lower urinary tract infections, while kidney infections are termed upper urinary tract infections. Physicians can usually localize the site of the infection based on symptoms and physical examination, and we can then determine an appropriate course of antibiotics based on our diagnosis. In this case, you have asked about the importance of differentiating between infectious and non-infectious cystitis. Typically, we suspect non-infectious cystitis in patients who have no sign of infection and do not respond to antibiotics. We then evaluate for other causes, each of which requires distinct treatment. UTIs are quite common, especially in women, but if you have unrelenting or recurrent symptoms, you should see your doctor, as there may be another diagnosis to entertain.

Zocdoc Answers is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.